Talking about the growing, or rather alarming, number of Syrians that have sought refuge in Lebanon since 2012 is very tricky. There is a very fine line between the humanitarian aspect of the issue and racism and intolerance, from a population that should know more than anyone else, the meaning of war and the pain of having to leave one’s home behind.
However, what if we are faced with something like this, a recently published UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) map, plotting the distribution of Syrian refugees throughout Lebanon.
This isn’t about racism or intolerance anymore, but a reality that is simply unsustainable with the potential to erode the very social fabric of Lebanon. Some Lebanese towns are even purported to have more Syrian inhabitants than Lebanese!
Look at it how you will, even the most humanitarian will realize that, with the severe limitations to what the Lebanese Government can offer and the international community’s insufficient assistance to date, hosting more Syrians may even be detrimental. For what more can Lebanon offer to these refugees, when it can’t even provide for those that are already here and, more importantly, its own population to begin with.
Once again, this isn’t about pro-regime or anti-regime, racism or intolerance, but about facing the facts of the way the Syrian crisis has come to bear on its neighbors, and first and foremost on Lebanon. The war in Syria doesn’t appear likely to end anytime soon. The refugee crisis will worsen, and what will happen to Lebanon then? Such unprecedented reality calls for unprecedented measures, at a time when the Lebanese government is partly doing what it can, partly busy with medieval political wrangling that border on the criminal in view of the crisis at hand. The rest of the world, in the meantime, continues to commend Lebanon for extending its open arms to these desperate refugees, which is not nearly enough to provide them with a decent shelter or schooling for their children, the lost generation of Syria…
I look at this map with fear, pain and despair. Fear in thought of how worse the situation can become. Pain for the refugees and their dire situation. Despair at knowing that not enough is being done to assist the refugees, nor to bringing an end to the fighting in Syria, nor towards supporting the Lebanese that are helping the refugees. I believe it is despair more than anything else that I feel…
Is somebody out there? Is anybody listening?